Big changes needed to attract local workers

What now for post-Brexit low-paid jobs?

What now for post-Brexit low-paid jobs? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lack of lorry drivers has caused panic at petrol stations. Work visas for foreign drivers have been approved, but driver shortages are everywhere. Apparently Poland is short of 124,000 drivers, the UK 76,000, Germany 60,000, France 43,000, Sweden 5,000, Norway 3,000 and Denmark 2,500. So it is not clear who will apply for a temporary job in the UK.

Christmas is quite secure; Christmas is December 25 when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as usual - hence the name "Christ Mass". Yuletide, the ancient mid-winter festival, is not so clear. Maybe parties and gift giving will spread into January or even February, which will average out the load for hospitality as well as shops and lessen the crowds which transmit the virus. My church discourages celebrations before Christmas Day anyway. In the old days, Advent was a period of reflection and preparedness before Christmas; in parts of Europe the gift giving tradition is January 6, the Epiphany.

In the book Winnie-the-Pooh the description of Eeyore's birthday contains ancient wisdom. Piglet was giving Eeyore a big balloon, but he tripped on the way and the balloon burst. Pooh was taking a jar of honey, but he got peckish and it arrived empty. However, Eeyore was absolutely thrilled. He put the burst balloon into and out of the empty jar, no-one had ever cared enough to give him anything before!! The lesson is that love, caring and fellowship are the truly valuable gifts we can offer. Things, cards and phone calls are merely methods to convey our thoughts.

The fuel crisis shows that we are accustomed to getting what we want while relying on other people to fill the gaps to make it happen. We have taken advantage of low wages in Eastern Europe to attract cheap labour, but industrialists have set up factories in these areas to offer better jobs than driving lorries, picking fruit or harvesting vegetables for other countries.

Manufacturing industry and retail distribution have reduced costs by establishing large centralised facilities; now they need to pay the price for the unsocial hours and working patterns that are required of lorry drivers to support these cost saving arrangements. Many jobs have unsocial hours, but lorry drivers may not get home between shifts! Income from minimum wage jobs is often augmented by benefits; low cost labour keeps prices down, but there is in effect a government subsidy to supplement individual incomes.

My grandfather was a carter, the trucking industry of 120 years ago. He went to London to drive a bus because he could manage a team of horses. I wonder how he felt when he was later given a petrol engine bus! Life was different then, dependent on local storage and local supplies with long haul transport carried by canals before the railways.

Before Brexit, low cost staffing from less privileged countries in the EU enabled many businesses to operate cheaply without paying the true cost of staffing. Care Homes and farms are obvious cases, but not the only examples. Jobs need to pay well enough to attract staff; which is the rationale of the market economy. If local staff are to be recruited into these jobs, including driving lorries, there will have to be some very big changes. If local staff cannot be attracted, there will be even bigger changes!

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